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Virus Expert Has This Warning for "Next Few Weeks"

"Try to avoid this infection if you can."
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

You may have heard that "most people" are going to catch COVID now. And with cases topping 800,000 in a day for the first time—and hospitalizations above 150,000 also—it seems like everyone is catching it. But there are very good reasons why now is not the time you want to get COVID, and delaying getting it is, in fact, possible. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb appeared on CBS's Face the Nation this morning opposite host Margaret Brennan to explain why. Read on for 5 life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

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Virus Expert Said "Remain Vigilant for the Next Several Weeks"

A mid adult woman protects herself by placing an N95 face mask over her nose and mouth.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the President and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, "said most people will be exposed to it at some point," said Brennan about Omicron. "These statements make people at home go, what am I doing here? Why am I trying to protect myself? At this point, what can you do?" "Look, I think the reality is most people are gonna get COVID in their lifetime. I don't think most people need to get COVID within the next month," said Dr. Gottlieb, "and anything we can do to try to protect ourselves—to the extent that there are people who haven't been exposed to this virus yet who've gone out and gotten vaccines, they have been able to protect themselves. If they can keep themselves protected for the next several weeks, we'll probably be through this Omicron wave and then we'll have to deal with this probably next fall when we have better tools available to us. I would much rather have my reckoning with COVID after I've been vaccinated a number of times, after there's orally available drugs widely accessible to treat this infection, after there's monoclonal antibodies widely accessible to treat it, after diagnostic testing is stockpiled in my house. And those realities will be truth come this fall, certainly come this summer. So I think people will be in a much better position to grapple with this next fall. I think we should remain vigilant for the next several weeks. Try to avoid this infection if you can."

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Virus Expert Said Here's What You Need to Know About Getting an Omicron-Specific Vaccine

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Pfizer said a vaccine targeting Omicron could be ready in March. "Does that mean everyone needs to are planning to go out and get another dose?" asked Brennan. "The reality is that this is gonna become an annual vaccination," said Dr. Gottlieb. "At least for a period of time. We don't know what the epidemiology of this infection's gonna be over the long run, but certainly over the next couple of years, you can envision boosters becoming an annual affair. At least for some portion of the population, people will more vulnerable. It could be the case that if we have an Omicron specific vaccine or a Delta specific vaccine, it's still unclear what the most prevalent strain of this infections gonna be on the back end of this Omicron wave. I think most people presume it will be Omicron, but if you can fashion a vaccine that's specific to the variant that's circulating, you probably have the potential to restore a lot of the original promise of the vaccine. And by that, I mean the ability to actually prevent transmission, to reduce infection. Right now, the vaccines are very effective at preventing serious disease and preventing hospitalization. They are also preventing symptomatic illness, but the prevention of transmission has been dramatically reduced in a setting of Omicron. If you could fashion a vaccine that's specific to Omicron, you can restore the ability of the vaccine potentially to prevent transmission. And it once again becomes a public health tool for actually controlling spread."

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Virus Expert Said Tests For You Shouldn't Be Too Hard to Find; Some are on Amazon

Man self tests for COVID-19 home test kit.
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The government is going to be providing Americans with at-home COVID tests. Dr. Gottlieb said don't be too discouraged if they arrive after Omicron has peaked in your area. You will need them. Use them or stockpile them. "I think that's what Americans ought to be doing….The reality is the test are available," he added. "They're not cheap, but if you go to Amazon right now, you can buy I 10 or more tests. I tested it before, before we got on this show this morning. So they are available. I think that they're difficult to get for bulk purchase, for purchases, or municipalities and states, but consumers can get access to them. And now with the federal government, providing reimbursement, most consumers can reach into the market and buy these tests. Unfortunately, they weren't available when we had peak demand. And that was when Omicron hit up against Christmas break." 

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Virus Expert Said Masks are Important

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"Do you think the administration is overemphasizing vaccination and not talking about things like masks and ventilation?" asked Brennan. "Look, I think they've talked about masks," said Gottlieb. "There's only so much the federal government can do to try to get consumers to wear masks. This really has to be done at the state and a local level. I think the administration should have earlier revised the guidance on the quality of the mask, recognizing that higher quality masks were gonna be important against variants that spread primarily through air burn transmission, like the Delta variant, like the Omicron variant." Gottlieb recommends N95 masks. "There has been an emphasis on vaccines. I think that could have been more emphasis on trying to get capacity in place over the summer for the production of not just the orally available drugs, like the one manufactured by Pfizer, but also the monoclonal antibodies, especially the drugs that could be used as a prophylaxis and treatment."

RELATED: Omicron Survival Tips From Virus Experts

5

How to Stay Safe Out There

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Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more
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